Losing My Teacher-ness

Wednesday 7th August 2013 – Miramar, FL


Today I received a beautiful gift from my beautiful niece back home in Old Smokey. Along with the gift came some lovely, heartfelt words about why she sent me the gift and the role that I have played in her life that inspired her to do this. I won’t out her publicly as I’m not sure she would want me too, but she knows who she is and she also knows how bowled over I was. Her kind words and gesture also made me almost cry, which I didn’t like. I used up my weekly crying quota on Monday after the boys left went back to England.

I am now the proud owner of a very English, very exquisite and very very ‘me’ item. Something I have lusted over for a long time and which belong to a group of similar items that  I am known lust over, to the point of obsession. Thank you, O Lovely Niece!
Since returning to Florida, following a five-week stint in Tulsa,  I have lost my teacher-ness. I don’t feel like a teacher anymore, I felt like an in-betweener, dare I even suggest an imposter? Semi-teacher, resident alien, recent immigrant – all of these labels apply to me. Who exactly am I right now? My familiar points of reference are mostly absent.
I have also experienced life below the American poverty line. It seems strange to believe this as I sit in my very lovely apartment, driving a very lovely new car to and from bright, clean suburbia each day, barely existing on the remnants of a subsistence grant and with no income expected until two weeks after I start teaching. It strikes me how fine the balance is between coping and losing everything and how, without savings or recourse to additional funding, ordinary people here can be just one pay cheque away from homelessness, poverty and despair.  Everything costs something here, nothing is given freely. Not even the basic right that we, as human beings, living in the most developed country in the world should expect to receive; access to free, quality healthcare. It is at times such as these that I miss my native country.
I catch myself wondering just how realistic it is to be expected to survive for three months without income and without an opportunity to gain additional income due to training, meetings and other commitments elsewhere. This, I believe is definitely flaw in the otherwise slick and seemingly flawless Teach For America recruitment and training program. Transitional funding helps, but the majority of this is used to secure accommodation.  Many people have existing financial commitments and simply do not have the capacity to save money in order to subsidise the gap between funding running out and receipt of a pay cheque. What options remain for new recruits?
Right now, I’m hoping for a passing Fairy Godmother to sprinkle some fairy dust into my bank account and all will be well. In the meantime, looks like it’s bagel and cheese again for breakfast/lunch/dinner tomorrow, again!

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